The Facebook Post That Made Me a Terrible Mother

by Kristin Parran

I can’t keep it in any longer. I must be the worst mother ever. It doesn’t matter that my not-yet-3-year old son adores me. Or that he climbs in bed with my husband and I and tells us we make the best team (then asks for high-fives). Or tells me he loves me more than cars. CARS! None of that matters.

Two things I have read today make me believe that despite all of these things, I must be a terrible mother. First, I read a blog post about breastfeeding. Or, rather about not breastfeeding. The author shared her honest feelings around the disappointment – and subsequent judgment – around not being able to breastfeed. The point was that mothers should leave other mothers alone – breastfeeding or not. Funny, though, all of the comments from women who felt judged about not breastfeeding came from a place of not being able to breastfeed. I didn’t see one from a woman who CHOSE not to breastfeed, like I did. It’s hard as a new mother to not feel at least a little judgment with every decision you make – even if it’s self-inflicted judgment. But, I am increasingly finding that mothers like me – those who choose to bottle feed for one reason or another – don’t exist in public forums. They sit back, try to stay unnoticed and feed their babies the best way they know how. Some choose the expensive organic formula. Some pay for soy-based. Some do extensive research to understand which product is best for their babies. But the thing that connects all of these women is that they love their babies just as much as breastfeeding women do. I love my son no less than the next woman. I firmly believe – and would argue til I died – that in the way I know how, I have given my son the best chances for a life full of love, happiness and health. But it’s hard to find people like me out there. At least those who admit it.

The second thing I saw was on Facebook. This kind of thing usually doesn’t affect me the way it did today. Maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive, or because my stepdaughter is visiting and that always has my emotions doing somersaults. Either way, it hit me. An old acquaintance just went back to work and posted that she’s missing her babies more than ever. But that’s not it – it’s what she said next that hit me: “I know every working mom would rather be at home with their babies all the time.” I dropped everything and started this post. I couldn’t help it. My brain is screaming. You ARE a good mom. You ARE a good mom. But, am I? Really? My response to that post was not: “Sister…you are so right! I would so much rather be at home with a screaming toddler, playing with cars and arguing about naptime Every. SINGLE. DAY.” Rather, instead my response: “That’s BS! While I LOVE my baby, I also LOVE my job. And the people I work with. And the opportunity to be ME. And the socialization. And that I contribute something financially to my family. I love having both. I NEED to have both.”

I get the sense that a lot of mothers will read my response and gasp. GASP. HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT!?! How could you say you love your job AND your baby? How could you not want to spend every single waking moment with your child? The answer for me is simple. Being me – the me who loves my job and my husband and my son and my friends and my time alone – makes me the very best mother I can be. Whether or not that mother meets standards set by others is something I can no longer judge myself against. I wish I could say that feeling follows me everywhere, every day. But, it obviously doesn’t. Rather than reading that post and saying: “There are mothers of every color, and I happen to a bright pink” I took it as a jab. A knife turning in the heart that is still trying to heal from post-partum. So, I’m not perfect. I do let some things get to me. But after the initial crazy self-judgment and guilt wear off, I once again see that I’m not such a bad mom. My son is an incredible human being. And, at the end of each day, I have to believe that I have something to do with that.

Kristin Parran is a mother of one (nearly 3-year old) boy and wife to a husband who anchors her in peace. Wise enough to know life can (and should) have balance, brave enough to listen to her gut – but not always smart or Zen enough to stop sweating the small stuff – she recently moved her family 1,100 miles to give everyone the best shot at equilibrium. She spends her days working from home for a tech PR firm and shedding tears of gratitude for newfound peace – which is soon interrupted by the impatience of reality. Each time she leaves her house, she secretly hopes to be discovered by Keith Urban, Brad Paisley or Dierks Bentley as a (silent, yet energetic) back-up singer. Or, to someday see her name on the cover of a book.

KP

A Love Letter to Mom Friends

One of the very best and unanticipated outcomes of motherhood – other than, you know, having kids – has been my Mom friends. So, on this Valentine’s Day, this is my salute to you from me, with love.

You get it.

You’ve got my back and I’ve got yours.

You don’t judge; you help.

You are the best sounding board – source of advice, recipes, spousal frustrations and snark.

Insanity is forgiven, as are tardiness, sticky floors and yoga pants.

Oh how we laugh together!

You’re my emergency contact on school and camp forms (and I don’t have to ask.)

Whether you work or stay home – really, who cares: you are still a Mom and a friend.

You are my muse.

(p.s. Dad friends, you are pretty awesome too.)

IMG_5568

Guest Post: My Sister’s Secret

by Gabriel McGarry

My sister has a secret! And I will tell you!

My sister is awesome.

She is awesome because…  She plays with me and follows me.

So I will tell you how to be awesome.

Be nice help your  friends

And kids you don`t know. And make new friends.

If  a kid was lonely go to him and talk to him.  And you made a new friend!

Gabriel McGarry is 8 years old. He likes cats, nature and Transformers.

IMG_6369

The Conversation I Didn’t Want to Have

(Note: This post originally ran on Sunday on the Huffington Post. The good news is that, despite the tough and sad topic, my son and I ended up having a wonderful conversation about kindness and respect.)

As I sit here, my 8-year-old son is consuming his fifth waffle and watching some inane Sunday morning cartoon. His life is carefree, focused, as kids often are, on entertainment, fulfilling his needs, and fun, fun, fun.

But, at some point today, I have to sit him down and have a conversation I don’t want to have to have. One that will bring back memories of another conversation we had to have just over four months ago. One that upset him then and which will upset him now. One to which, when he asks why, we will not have the answers.

I guess this is parenting. I guess this is real life. It stinks.

Yesterday, we received notification from our kids’ school principal that they plan to hold Open Circles in class on Monday so the children can share any questions, concerns or feelings they have about this past week’s sadness and madness here in Boston.

First, let me say that I fully support the mission of the Open Circle program, which is described as:

  • Strengthening students’ [SEL] skills related to recognizing and managing emotions, developing care and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively
  • Fostering safe, caring and highly-engaging classroom and school communities

Flash back four months to the days following the ghastly events in Newtown. School somberly informed us they’d be holding Open Circles in each class. I understand why it was necessary: many were distraught and we needed to provide a forum in which facts could be confirmed, mistruths corrected and, most of all, security and safety assured. But my husband and I, we struggled all weekend with the timing, feeling like ours hands were forced into having a discussion with children before school resumed, so that they could hear it from us first: the two people they depend on most for wellbeing, confidence, faith. I, for one, was not willing or ready for the responsibility of penetrating their carefree universe with the ugly reality that bad things happen to good people, without cause or sense. I needed more time to process, find the right words, consult with other parents. But the clock was ticking, the weekend hours running out before the Monday morning school bell and the wagging tongues of many kids.

To read the full post on Huffington Post, click here.

Wide-Eyed & Petrified

I’m in a deep soupy sleep but something is tugging me into consciousness. I hear my name being called: not yelled, not moaned but with a tone that signals urgency and concern. I leap out of bed before my eyes are even open, senses alert, even though the grey matter is still revving up.

I enter your room and your eyes immediately find me, wide open but droopy, petrified but relieved, covers askew.

“Mama!” you breathe.

I sit down and you throw your arms around my neck, your skin sweaty and damp and smelling like a boy. You cling on to me and I let you, hoping this intense contact will chase away whatever monsters, scary thoughts or fears had the audacity of invading your dreams. I feel your pulse slowing down, your fear unwinding, your muscles and mind letting go of the adrenalin, the panic, the confusion. I am sorely tempted to climb under the covers with you and hold you tight against me forever.

Instead, I carefully help you lie back down, flip your pillow over so its cool side calms your flushed cheeks. I rub your back in hypnotic circles. Your eyelids flutter, your breath deepens and once again, you are in dreamland, hopefully this time a place filled with fun and smiles and adventures.

Having performed Mama Magic, I tip toe out of the room, eager to get back to my own bed and my own dreamland.

Just as I get to the door ….. “Mama!”

And so it goes.

A Love Letter to my Father

Phew, at least Father’s Day is the same in the U.S. and the U.K. You’d think that’d mean that I’d be organized enough to get cards/gifts in time for both my Dad and for Devin. But not so much. But hooray for my blog where, even better than a Hallmark card, I can express in my own way, just how special my father is to me.

My Dad is one-of-a-kind. Brought up during World War II, he’s made of strong stuff, with a big heart and a firm grasp on the what really matters. My Dad’s feet are always on the ground. His needs are few. He is generous to a fault. His principals are steadfast and admirable. His smile lights up a room. His dedication to my Mum and his family unwavering. I may be an adult, making my own way in the world, but my path, character, confidence and my success are 100% attributed to what my father has taught me. Several examples include:

  • Picking yourself back up: After being laid off the first, or was it the second time, I was down and in a funk. One day Dad presented me with a twenty pound note, told me to go buy brushes and paints, and paint my bedroom. 24 hours later, I was like new. Focused, with a plan, a goal. 48 hours later, bedroom walls freshly painted, I felt accomplished, energized. Ready to go get the world again. Genius, Dad.
  • Determination and taking risks: As a child, I never fully appreciated just how canny a businessman my father was. Only as a parent myself, can I appreciate the dedication and effort he put into his self-made enterprise, and his employees, every single day. I try to mirror this in my life and career, which has caused me to stay true to my career choice, despite some bumps along the way, and to even forge my career in new countries.
  • Family first: My parent’s marriage has always been a joy to watch. My Dad is what I call an old-fashioned husband, his love is enduring, he is a romantic at heart, I’m sure. My father’s love for his family has extended and deepened as our family has expanded over the generations and there’s room in his heart for us all. What’s more, he’s diligently researching our family past and even finding long-lost relatives.
  • Don’t forget the silly: From jumping out the dining room window shouting “bunny bunny bunny” and cavorting across the lawn, to April Fool’s jokes and creating treasure hunts around our neighbourhood, Dad’s silly-side is often surprising, always effervescent.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. I love you!

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

This week, Devin and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary. Wow! Ten years.

When I said “I do,” to him back on April 25, 2002, it was with the conviction that I had found someone who matched me. I knew that being married to this guy would be fun. Of course, it would have its share of ups and downs, like any marriage. Naturally we’d bitch and moan at each other along the way. I knew there would be many things I’d do and say that would bug him – and that there would be many, many (did I say many ?) things he’d do that would seriously nark me. And then there would be all the other regular stuff that would interfere, sneak up, challenge, or freak us out. Like pets, work, no work, children, money, mortgage, fridges, religion, family, schedules and all that.

Of course we love each other. That’s a given. But the secret to what has kept this union sound, light-hearted, reasonable and fun is ….. silliness.

Very early on, I realized that Devin is as silly as I am. What clicked between us – and which has endured through ten years of marriage – is our very natural way of not taking ourselves too seriously. Once when we were dating, he gave me a copy of Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, with his own silly riddle hidden inside. Of late, I’ve taken to secretly doctoring his daily to-do list. Instead of saying goodbye when we speak on the phone, he’s started saying “f@*k off Frank.” No clue why, but it makes me chuckle.

Fortunately for us, our innate and combined silliness was a perfect foundation for raising children. Now we have an audience! Our kids get a huge kick out of us all being silly together – and an even bigger thrill when they watch mama and papa being silly with each other. It’s downright gleeful.

Other couples count on love, respect and teamwork to nurture their relationships. We have that too. But for us, being silly is the cherry on top!

(Post note: I looked up the definition of silly on dictionary.com and was displeased. I much prefer the definitions on Urban Dictionary, check them out!)

Why America?

I don’t really like America. This may come as a shock to you as it’s been my home for 12 years. I’m the kind of person who lives in the moment and makes the most of what I have. I choose to embrace the world around me with an open mind and an open heart. So here I am, in America, 12 years after moving here with my job in February 2000. I could have gone back to France (which I still miss so viscerally,) could go back to my roots in England, could try somewhere entirely new.

I’ve felt at home everywhere that I’ve lived.

As I embarked upon this post, I was thinking of chronicling the major milestones during these 12 years. But two particular moments stand out, defining me and my future.

Flashback to August 5, 2001. Not to that lazy Sunday morning and the heart-stopping moment when this wonderful man I had fallen in love with asked me to be his wife. But later that night, as he slept beside me and my head and heart exploded with emotions and my eyes gushed with tears. Joy: I had finally found my soul mate. Amazement/gratitude: that someone could love me enough to want to marry me. Relief: now I could actually dare to see my future, having children could finally become a reality.

Fast-forward to April 2004. After a tough and mentally torturous journey, we discover I am pregnant. Yes, my body is about to perform this ridiculously clever process of growing a person. They say when you become a parent, you permanently wear your heart on your sleeve. For me, this started the day the little blue line appeared after peeing on the white stick. Life was profoundly altered from that moment. I was no longer one person. I still look at my son with amazement and say, “I made you! How nuts is that.”

Now we have two beautiful kids. This April, Devin and I celebrate 10 happy years of marriage. We have a lovely home, great jobs, good health, fantastic friends. I do not take any of this for granted. I wish my parents and siblings were closer, geographically, but we are closer precisely because of our physical distance.

They say home is where the heart is. Right now, it’s here. America.

20120212-084621.jpg

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers

%d bloggers like this: